VENTURES AFRICA – What is your brand? You may have heard this question before or have been asked by someone.
Your brand is who you say you are and of course who people think you are.
Being true to one’s own character or values in the face of external pressures means your brand stands for some greater purpose or ideal than making money. In reality, most consumers believe brands exist to earn profit, which makes any claims suspicious from the start. However, a few brands are perceived to be true to some inner value or tenet, some principle, which endures over time. This genuineness is attractive to those consumers who share the same value.
It is important to be single minded when defining your brand as you cannot be everything.
Your lifestyle, your expressions, your choices, location, network of friends, and consistent behaviour, define who you are and how you intend to achieve your goals. This applies to all things including countries, presidents, destinations, airlines, businesses, airlines, schools, entertainers and so much more.
Your brand can either attract or distract from your goals based on your consistency of behavior and the actions you take and believe it or not, companies and products have personalities too.
If your brand loses the trust of its customers, it loses its brand value and positioning which can ultimately leads to its death. Trust” is not a brand differentiator. It’s a requirement.
A case in sample is what happened in the banking sector in Nigeria in August 2009 where five banks were intervened by CBN for poor corporate governance and mismanagement of customer deposits.
On August 14, 2009 the CBN Governor Lamido Sanusi announced summary removal of top management of five banks offering the banks for sale to new investors, local or foreign.
At a media briefing he announced that the CBN was seizing top management of the banks and also stated that CBN had injected N400 billion ($2.5 billion) in bailout to the affected banks to ensure depositors and creditors to the banks did not lose their money. One of the reasons Sanusi gave for his action:
‘Excessively high level of non-performing loans in the five banks which was attributable to poor corporate governance practices, lax credit administration processes and the absence or non-adherence to the bank’s credit risk management practices.’
Thus years of hard work by countless employees, marketing campaigns and perceived excellent service were wiped away in an instant.
The banks fell short of customer’s expectations and as such customers lined up to withdraw their funds. The banks were no longer trusted. Their reputation became flawed and even staff who considered themselves highly marketable were quick to resign and disengage themselves from the damaged brand institution they worked for.
The phrase, ‘Failed Banks’ became synonymous with the banks and subsequently most of them merged with stronger banks thus becoming extinct. They became dead brands.
Over the years, whilst the following examples didn’t elicit the death of the brands they surely went through perceived customer service failure and non delivery of brand promise, the 2010 BP Oil Spill, The 2009 Toyota Recall Crisis.
As global economies struggle to keep afloat, Africa has become the new location for business. A continent looked at for its resources and image of hunger and poverty has suddenly become the new destination for business sustainability. What can we say is actually the brandd image of Africa to others and ourselves? What is the brand personality of the many countries who make up the African continent and as brands what is our individual brand personality and brand essence.
Are we ready to take on global business and partner with companies, do we have the right human capital, infrastructure and brand values to uphold our economies and ensure we develop our communities, as every persons effort counts.
Our brand essence as individuals makes up our country and that of the continent and brand essence is what is felt when others interact with your brand.
It is this consistency of experience that causes us to trust a brand and must occur at every touchpoint, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential. In addition to consistency, the other hallmark of a brand is differentiation — giving the customer a reason to choose your brand rather than your competitor’s brand.
So as opportunities abound in Africa you have to be sure you are ready to contribute to the continents growth and be a part of its solution?
Examine your brand’s vision and mission statements.
What need does your brand address?
What problem does it solve?
What is its lofty goal?
Are these ideals the brand can stand for?
Ask yourself what principles of doing business have never changed?
Ask your employees what they get excited about?
What values do they share?
What customer problem would they like to fix?
Ask your customers what issues matter to them.
Your brand will not be strong unless the entire organization, country understands and embraces everything you stand for, starting from the top.
Then you will be able to sustain continued profitability and contribute to economic growth holistically.